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Medical News & Updates


E-cigarettes may be luring low-risk youth to tobacco
Tuesday, 24th January 2017
E-cigarettes - seen as responsible for a decline in cigarette smoking among the youth -- are actually attracting a new population of adolescents who might not otherwise have smoked tobacco products, researchers warned.

The findings showed that the e-cigarettes attract low-risk adolescents who may not have used nicotine at all if e-cigarettes did not exist.

"E-cigarettes are encouraging - not discouraging - youth to smoke and to consume nicotine and are expanding the tobacco market," said Stanton A. Glantz, Professor at University of California - San Francisco.

Several previous studies have reported that adolescents who start with e-cigarettes are more likely to subsequently smoke traditional cigarettes.

According to researchers, they did not find any evidence that e-cigarettes have caused youth smoking to decline. In fact, combined e-cigarette and cigarette use among adolescents in 2014 was higher than total cigarette use in 2009, they stated.

"The study didn't find any evidence that e-cigarettes are causing youth smoking to decline," added Lauren Dutra, social scientist at RTI International - a not-for-profit research organisation based in North Carolina, US.

The "recent declines in youth smoking are likely due to tobacco control efforts, not to e-cigarettes," Dutra noted.

For the new study, the team examined survey data from more than 140,000 middle and high school students who completed the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey between 2004 and 2014.

The results showed that cigarette smoking among US adolescents declined during that decade, but did not decline faster after the advent of e-cigarettes in the US between 2007 and 2009.

The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics.
Eating blue maize may reduce BP, cholesterol, fat
Saturday, 14th January 2017
Consuming blue maize may help prevent metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure and blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol, a study conducted in rat models has found.

Physical inactivity, genetic profile and a diet with inadequate energy intake are other factors that drive metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome also raises an individual's risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, the researchers said.

The natural antioxidants present in blue maize may help protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes as well as cancer, said Rosa Isela Guzman-Geronimoa from the University of Veracruz in Mexico.

In the study, the rats were fed on a high-sugar and high-cholesterol diet for 12 weeks. They were given blue maize extracts during a period of 4 weeks.

The rats showed significant improvement in systolic blood pressure, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels compared to those not given the extract.

The findings may raise interest in using blue maize as a component of functional foods and nutraceuticals, the researchers said.

Anti-obesity food materials are always in demand and this study brings out not only the importance of blue maize in controlling adipocity, but also the potential role of cholesterol in the development of obesity, the researchers stated.

The study was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.
Infant cereals don't have nutritional consistency everywhere
Monday, 2nd January 2017
Premixed complementary foods sold in lower-income countries lack consistency in their nutritional content, a global analysis of infant cereals has revealed.

The findings suggest that there is a need for basic quality assurance services to improve nutritional consistency and healthy growth of infants from 6 to 24 months age.

Premixed infant cereals or complementary foods can be a vital source of the solid food needed for healthy child growth after the age of six months, when infants outgrow the nutrients provided by breast milk alone.

This conclusion was reached after researchers from Tufts University in the US analysed 108 commercially available premixed complementary foods from 22 low-and-middle-income countries.

The findings, published in the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition, said premixed complementary foods can be extremely effective at protecting infants against malnutrition and stunted growth.

"In countries where we sampled, some products can readily meet children's needs, but others fall far below requirements for both macro and micro-nutrients," said William Masters from Tufts University."Our results are a call to action for establishing and enforcing nutritional quality standards, which would help ensure access to lower-cost, higher-quality products and enable parents to meet their infants' needs more easily," he added.

Researchers said that childhood malnutrition was the main cause of stunted growth, that may lead to delayed mental development and poor school performance -- a serious and irreversible condition that affects individuals with greater risk for illness and death throughout their lives.

According to UNICEF, nearly half of all deaths in children under age five are related to under-nutrition, which is particularly widespread in Africa and Asia.

"A healthy child consuming breast milk alongside the average sampled complementary food would experience zinc and iron deficiency from six to nine months, and dietary fat deficiency at 12 months," the study said.

The study noted that nutritional content claims on packaging labels did not meet their reported caloric content.

"Slightly more than half of the products misreported protein, and two thirds misreported fat content. For zinc and iron, products exceeded labeled values about as often as they fell short," the study further added.
Cutting antibiotics duration bad for kids with ear infections
Wednesday, 28th December 2016
Reducing the duration of antibiotics can do more harm than good when treating children with ear infections, warns a study.

When treating children between 9 and 23 months of age with antibiotics for ear infections, a shortened course has worse clinical outcomes without reducing the risk of antibiotic resistance or adverse events, showed results of the trial involving over 500 kids.

"Given significant concerns regarding overuse of antibiotics and increased antibiotic resistance, we conducted this trial to see if reducing the duration of antibiotic treatment would be equally effective along with decreased antibiotic resistance and fewer adverse reactions," said Alejandro Hoberman, Professor at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the US."The results of this study clearly show that for treating ear infections in children between 9 and 23 months of age, a five-day course of antibiotic offers no benefit in terms of adverse events or antibiotic resistance," Hoberman noted."Though we should be rightly concerned about the emergence of resistance overall for this condition, the benefits of the 10-day regimen greatly outweigh the risks," Hoberman added.

In the current trial, 520 children with acute otitis media were randomly assigned to either a standard 10-day regimen of the antibiotic amoxicillin-clavulanate or a shortened five-day treatment followed by five days of placebo.

Acute otitis media is a common bacterial infection of the middle ear behind the ear drum in kids which causes it to become painfully inflamed.

The risk of treatment failure in the five-day group (34 per cent) was more than twice as much the risk in the 10-day group (16 per cent), according to the results published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

When they tested the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria through back of the nose swabs, there was no decrease in the 5-day group as might have been expected with a shorter duration of antibiotics.

Also, reduced-duration antibiotics did not decrease the risk of frequent adverse events like diarrohea or diaper rash, the study said.
New treatment could fast-track elephantiasis elimination
Tuesday, 27th December 2016
If a recently proposed combination of three particular drugs is used, the devastating elephantiasis disease can be prevented or treated rapidly using fewer rounds of drugs, a new research has found.

Lymphatic filariasis -- commonly known as elephantiasis -- is a neglected tropical disease, which causes serious damage to the lymphatic system.

A large proportion of the billion people living with the threat of transmission of this disabling parasitic disease is in India, Indonesia and Myanmar where the triple drug combination could be used, the researchers said.

"Our results show that this regimen could potentially overcome important issues plagued by elimination campaigns, by making elimination as a public health problem achievable in a few years," said first author of the study Mike Irvine from the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Lymphatic filariasis is caused by parasitic worms, and is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

Many people with the disease develop elephantiasis causing pain and profound disfigurement -- such as large swelling of the arms, legs or genitals -- and leading to permanent disability.

These patients are not only physically disabled, but suffer mental, social and financial losses, contributing to stigma and poverty.

Currently, people with Lymphatic filariasis require multiple rounds of treatment -- but if the drugs ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine, and albendazole are used together recent clinical studies have shown that the drugs are more effective at killing the worms.

The new modelling work - published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases - showed that this meant that the number of rounds of mass drug administration needed to treat the disease may fall from many rounds to only two or three.

The models were developed at the University of Warwick in Britain, Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands, and Notre Dame University in the US.

All three models were in agreement in the effectiveness of the regimen in reducing the prevalence of disease. The researchers noted that more effective treatment with fewer drugs rounds is crucial in poorer countries where transmission is high but resources are low.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has targeted the disease for elimination as a public health problem by the year 2020.
Smoking during pregnancy may impair children's kidney
Monday, 26th December 2016
A new research has revealed that expectant mothers should not smoke during pregnancy as it might impair children's kidney.

It is said that children who are born to women who smoked during their pregnancy were more likely to show signs of kidney damage by the age of three, compared to those born to non-smoking mothers.

The findings showed that maternal smoking during pregnancy was one of the risk factors of childhood proteinuria, abnormal amount of protein in urine -- a sign of kidney disease.

The effects on kidney health were evident in 3-year-old children.

Koji Kawakami from Kyoto University, in Japan, "Maternal smoking during pregnancy is known to be associated with preterm birth, low birth weight, and neonatal asphyxia. The findings from this study suggest an additional adverse effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy".

For the study, the team looked for the presence of proteinuria in urinary tests from 44,595 children from pregnancy to three-years of age.

The results showed that the prevalence rates of proteinuria in children at age three in the maternal smoking groups -- none, past, and current -- were 78.9 per cent, 4.4 per cent and 16.7 per cent, respectively.

Maternal smoking during pregnancy was associated with a 1.24-times increased risk of child proteinuria compared with no exposure to maternal smoking during pregnancy.

"Prevention of child proteinuria is important since child proteinuria can lead to development of chronic kidney disease in adulthood and ultimately end stage renal disease," Kawakami said.

The findings is forthcoming in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN).
Pregnancy causes alterations in women's brain to adapt to motherhood
Wednesday, 21st December 2016
Pregnancy can cause long-lasting changes -- at least for two years post-partum -- in the morphology of a woman's brain and help them adapt to challenges of motherhood such as the ability to interact with the child, researchers have found.

The study, which used magnetic resonance imaging on participants, showed that the brains of women who underwent pregnancy demonstrated a symmetrical reduction in the volume of grey matter in the medial frontal and posterior cortex line, as well as in specific sections of, mainly, prefrontal and temporal cortex in pregnant women -- brain regions associated with social cognition.

According to researchers, no changes in memory or other cognitive functions were observed during the pregnancies and, therefore, they believed that the loss of grey matter does not imply any cognitive deficits, but rather such changes correspond to an adaptive process of functional specialisation towards motherhood.

"The findings point to an adaptive process related to the benefits of better detecting the needs of the child, such as identifying the newborn's emotional state," said Oscar Vilarroya from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.

The areas with grey matter reductions were also found to overlap with brain regions activated during a functional neuro-imaging session in which the mothers of the study watched images of their own babies.

"These changes concern brain areas associated with functions necessary to manage the challenges of motherhood," added another researcher Erika Barba from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

In addition, the reductions in grey matter were practically identical in both women who had undergone fertility treatments and women who had become pregnant naturally.

The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
This is why you should encourage your children to use gestures while they think
Friday, 16th December 2016
Parents, take note! Encouraging children to use gestures as they think can help them come up with more creative ideas, according to new research."Our findings show that children naturally gesture when they think of novel ways to use everyday items, and the more they gesture the more ideas they come up with," said Elizabeth Kirk from the University of York in the UK."When we then asked children to move their hands, children were able to come up with even more creative ideas," said Kirk."Gesturing may allow us to explore the properties of the items - for example, how the item could be held, its size, its shape, etc - and doing so can trigger ideas for creative uses," Kirk added.

In their first study, researchers compared the creativity of children who spontaneously gestured with those who either did not or could not gesture.

A total of 78 children, ranging from nine to 11 years old, saw a series of images depicting ordinary household items, including a newspaper, a tin can and a kettle.

The researchers asked the children to look at each image and list as many novel uses as they could think of.

The children could take as much time as they needed; when they paused, researchers prompted them by saying "What else could you do with it?"

A subset of participants completed the task twice - on one version of the task, they wore mittens that limited their ability to gesture.

Researchers transcribed and coded each session, measuring the number of valid novel uses generated by each participant, as well as the originality of those responses and the diversity of categories that the responses fell under.

The data showed that children spontaneously gestured and that greater gesturing was associated with a greater number of creative ideas.

Restricting children's ability to gesture did not impact their ability to come up with creative uses for the objects.

Children who were free to gesture produced about the same number of ideas as those who wore the mittens and could not gesture.

This may be because children still had many other idea-generating strategies at their disposal when their hands were restricted.

In a second experiment, 54 children, ranging from 8 to 11 years old, completed the same alternative uses task.

In some cases, children gestured normally; in other cases, researchers instructed them to "use your hands to show me how you could use the object in different ways."

Children who gestured normally produced 13 gestures, on average, while those who were specifically prompted to gesture produced about 53 gestures, on average.

Children who were encouraged to gesture generated a greater number of novel uses for the everyday objects than did the children who were not given any special instruction.

The research appears in the journal Psychological Science.
This new drug show hope for infants with rare, fatal muscle disease
Monday, 12th December 2016
A new study by US researchers have found a new novel drug that shows hope for infants suffering with rare, fatal muscle disease.

This new experimental drug may have the potential to improve the quality of life for infants suffering from a rare, lethal neuromuscular disorder.

Spinal muscular atrophy is a genetic disease that affects around one in every 11,000 births.

It affects the nerve cells in the spinal cord that connect to the muscles, causing them to waste away resulting in progressive muscle weakness and difficulty in breathing and eating.

Infantile-onset, which is the most severe form of the disease, occurs from a defect in the gene called SMN2, responsible for producing survival motor neuron (SMN) -- a protein critical for normal cell function.

It affects babies under the age of six months. Less than a quarter of those diagnosed with the disease will live up to two years without major feeding and breathing support.

The findings, a phase 2 trial involving 20 babies with infantile-onset SMA, showed the treatment with the drug nusinersen could increase the production of SMN protein by modifying a closely-related gene to compensate for the genetic defect.

Apart from being safe for use in babies as young as five-week-old, nusinersen was also found to halt progression of the disease and in many cases improve motor function.

In addition, nusinersen sometimes enabled children to gain skills such as sitting, rolling over, and standing -- usually not seen in SMA Type 1 -- as well as improved survival without depending upon the continuous use of a ventilator, the researchers explained.

Richard S. Finkel, lead author from Nemours Children's Hospital in Florida, US said "With nusinersen, these infants are not only living longer, but living better".

Finkel added, "SMA is no longer a death sentence for infants. This treatment is by no means a cure, but it is more than we've ever been able to offer these families before".

The study was published in The Lancet.
Men more prone to Type 2 diabetes than women: Study
Tuesday, 6th December 2016
Researchers said men could be more prone to Type 2 diabetes as they accumulate more iron than women. As compared to one-fifth of women, two-fifth of men were at risk of the disease.

Iron is a micronutrient which is required in the formation of some essential body proteins and enzymes, like haemoglobin, cytochromes and peroxidase.

Though it is harmful when stored in excess in the body, but promotes the release of free radicals that damage the secretion capacity of beta cells of pancreas to produce insulin.

The findings said, it also decreases insulin sensitivity in peripheral tissues and organs involved in glucose metabolism.

The study led by Alex O. Aregbesola from University of Eastern Finland, showed that men have 61 per cent higher prevalence and 46 per cent increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes when compared with women.

Excess body iron accumulation is a known risk factor of Type 2 diabetes in hereditary hemochromatosis -- a disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron from the diet.

However, the study showed that even mildly elevated body iron contributes to the prevalence and incidence of Type 2 diabetes.

This excess iron was found to disturb the glucose metabolism in the body. On the other hand, moderate iron stores were found safer than depletion toward iron deficiency.

Iron depletion toward deficiency did not offer protection against Type 2 diabetes.

The type of association between iron stores and the risk of Type 2 diabetes showed that the risk was lowest on moderate levels, the researchers said.

"This study provides a new body of evidence that mildly elevated body iron is an important risk factor of glucose metabolism derangement, which contributes to the increase in the prevalence and incidence of Type 2 diabetes," Aregbesola said, in the paper published in the journal Annals of Clinical Biochemistry.

(With IANS inputs)
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